The Mental Health Benefits of ExerciseSeptember 16, 2020
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The power of exercise on your mental health is something that’s often talked about, but what does this mean in real terms? The following sheds some light on exactly why activity (of any form) has hugely advantageous repercussions for your emotional wellbeing, in addition to that of physical health.
The Exercise-Brain Connection
Your mood is inextricably linked with the production of three important brain chemicals: dopamine, serotonin and norepinephrine (noradrenaline). Physical activity – any kind of physical activity – increases the levels of the so-called ‘feel good’ hormones, of dopamine and serotonin*. It also helps to regulate the balance of the stress hormone, adrenaline. This is a vital component for the body’s fight-or-flight response, but excessive amounts can be detrimental to your health.
In addition, exercise helps with the following:
- Energy levels: Although it might sound counter-intuitive, the more exercise you do the more you’ll be able (and want) to do. As your fitness increases, so too do your energy levels.
- Improves sleep patterns: Even small amounts of exercise have a great effect on your sleep cycle. For a long time it was believed that physical exertion close to bedtime had a detrimental effect on the ability to fall asleep, but more and more evidence** is now showing that moderate levels of exercise later in the day is just as beneficial as in the morning. It impacts both the ability to fall asleep and the quality.
- Heightened mental acuity: The endorphins and chemicals produced during exercise improve concentration and thinking. In addition, they stimulate the growth of new brain cells and help ward off age-related disease, such as dementia***.
When it comes to particular mental health issues, there is irrefutable evidence that physical activity is hugely beneficial in combating and controlling various conditions.
- Anxiety and depression: While these are two separate conditions, they often go hand in hand. Exercise helps reduce stress, muscle tension and the various physical symptoms that all contribute to levels of anxiety. When it comes to clinical depression, the act of exertion can be as effective as medication (in mild to moderate cases), and, of course, doesn’t come with the associated side effects. It can also reduce the chances of becoming depressed in the first place.
- PTSD and mental trauma: There is mounting evidence that the stress response the body undergoes after mental trauma can be helped through regular physical movement. Activities that get you out in the elements are particularly beneficial, such as walking, hiking, sailing etc.
- ADHD: As already mentioned, exercising increases the hormones necessary to boost mood. This is particularly important for those who suffer from ADHD, and has been shown to have similar effects as prescription drugs, such as Ritalin.
What Do We Mean By Exercise?
The great thing about exercise is that it doesn’t have to be structured. In other words, if you hate the gym or the thought of donning your running shoes and hitting the pavement fills you with dread, then you don’t have to do it. Quite simply, any activity that causes a level of physical exertion is exercise.
This includes efforts such as:
- Playing in the garden with the kids (or grandkids)
- Housework (such as vacuuming)
- Getting off public transport a stop or two earlier and walking the rest
- Walking (at a pace that gets you mildly out of breath)
As you can see, there’s many ways that you can achieve regular exercise sessions. Plus there’s no need to carry out physical effort for extended periods. Even 10 or 15 minute sessions three times a week can have a very real effect on your mental health.
Contact the Experts at Bailey Fitness for Personal Advice
Discovering the exercise best suited to you can be challenging, and this is where the professionals can help. Bailey Fitness have three locations around Perth and a team of experienced fitness staff who’re passionate about helping WA residents enjoy their exertions.
With a range of options to suit all levels of fitness – not to mention your likes and loathes of different forms of physical efforts – they’ll help you discover how to reach your fitness goals and boost your mental health along the way.
Visit https://www.baileyfitness.com.au to find out more.